Autograph Hound's Blah Blah Blog

Monday, February 27, 2012

#SDCC – The project – Plan phase

The 5 phases – Initiate, Plan, Execute, Monitor and Control, Close Down
Preparation is only worth what you put into it and what you get out of it. Don’t over plan.
The Plan phase is the ‘Devil in the details’ part.
Ideally, there should be no ‘black boxes’. Meaning everything thing should be understood and broken down into manageable activities. You should never have something in the plan like ‘Then we show up and have fun’ or ‘create a new portfolio for review’.  That’s not manageable and implies something isn’t understood.  If that is the case, you need to go back to initiate and do more research.
This part of the project is reviewing the Charter and breaking down the parts into tasks to be divided among the team. From the tasks, you will start prioritizing them based on importance and order of completion and in the end you have your Project Schedule.
From the Charter you know you need transportation to the event.  That needs to be assigned to someone.  Money needs to be allocated.  Seems simple.  Are you flying together or separately?  Are you all in one location? Will you meet somewhere beforehand or at the gate? If you flying from different areas of the country – will you try to have the same layover and connecting flights? Will you all meet in San Diego Airport or at the hotel?  Who is paying for what? Does each person arrange their own flight and payment?  Does one person books and pay for all of the flights then gets the monies from each individual?  Does one person book the flights and everyone else contributes to the cost?  Can payment do done in installments? Will there be a quid pro quo system for expenses - You pay for my flight but I’ll pay for your hotel? What happens if someone backs out or can’t management a payment?
You repeat this process for each requirement from the Charter.
This phase can be tedious and you can over think and get caught up in the minutiae.  Just make sure you review the tasks with the team and do some sanity checks. Often you can start chasing rabbits and stuck in the weeds. Getting an outsider to review you plan is helpful.
After you have your tasks written down, you need to add estimated cost and durations. Can some of the tasks be done concurrently?  Can some be done before others?  Does the order matter?  If you are planning on Cosplay – does it matter which custom is made first? Does it matter if the customs are made before the badges are bought?  Can the flight be booked and paid for before the hotel room is reserved?  These are your decisions.  This is your plan.
Next is cost.  Do you need to have everyone’s money up front? Will it be pay as you go (piece meal)?  Will someone bank roll the whole project and then the others remit payment? Will repayment be done before, during, or after the Convention?
Resources (people or things) are also addressed in this phase. Can everything be done ‘in house’? Can you do all of your own cosplay creation? Or is there some tricky bit you need to farm out?  Will you have to pay them?  If you are planning on getting material for your blog or website – do you already have the equipment? Are you renting or borrowing? Do you bring the equipment with you or rent/purchase locally? Is it available when you need it? Do you know how to work it? Do you need extra help moving it or running it?  What contingency plans are in place if your access is denied?
What tasks are critical? What tasks need to be completed by certain dates? Which tasks affect other tasks? Is the task of ‘arranging transportation from the airport to the hotel’ dependent on the task of ‘getting a hotel’?  How is the budget affected if the hotel changes?  How important is the task of getting badges?  What other tasks are dependent on that?
How does everyone communicate with each other?  Will you have emails or texts or meetings at Starbucks or conference calls?  How will you communicate the completion of task and roadblocks? This is where you decide how to keep each other in the loop.
This is where you will be talking about Risks with the team and creating a list of responses.
Once you are done you need to go back and review it…again.
What does the budget look it?  Too expensive? Do you still have money to spend?  Have you put a little something aside for emergencies?
How long are the durations?  Does the duration take you to August?
Does one team member have too much to do and another not enough?
This is when the Project Manager earns his pay.  The PM starts to play with the schedule and the budget like it’s a Rubik’s Cube.  The PM is looking for a better solution.  The first run through can be frustrating as it’s over budget and there isn’t enough time to complete all tasks. Often the solution is redefining the scope of the project.  What can be removed that doesn’t affect the overall goals? Maybe something needs to be moved to the next SDCC...or dropped all together.
After the PM revamps the project, it’s reviewed by the team for buy off. Everyone need to agree on the new plan (or at least not disagree to the point of ruining the plan) so the plan can move forward.
Once consensus is reached, the plan is reworked with the reduced tasks and costs and presented to the team.

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